2010 Lincoln MKT — Review
Lincoln's all-new, highly versatile full-size crossover competes with and bests its competition.
- Surprisingly precise driver
- Just the right amount of techie toys
- Hushed like a library, yet still fun to drive
- Grins like a baleen whale
- Window tint too much L.A. confidential
- Noisy sunroof wind deflector
The phrase "surprisingly good" aptly sums up the all-new 2010 Lincoln MKT. Muscular yet confidently quiet and filled with techie gee-whiz highlights, the MKT is something like the sixth new or significantly updated Lincoln model to be introduced in the last year, and it easily fulfills Lincoln's luxury mandate. Plus, it is more precise and satisfying to drive than expected. Furthermore, the 3-row, up to 7-passenger crossover equals and bests its competition in fuel economy and passenger room — a step forward for Lincoln as bold as the MKT's grille.
Sharing its chassis and powertrain with the Ford Flex, but not a single exterior or interior panel (and definitely exuding its own uptown vibe), the Lincoln MKT is offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, with a choice of two V6 engines. The AWD EcoBoost versions are clearly more desirable due to their superior power and flexibility. The EcoBoost is a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected engine that Ford claims will reduce noxious emissions without sacrificing power and performance. But there is a less expensive, less powerful option: the 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6. It is the only MKT to use FWD (AWD is optional with the 3.7-liter); all EcoBoost 3.5-liter MKTs are AWD vehicles.
Bursting with features — no fewer than 12 of them class exclusives — the MKT is heavily equipped in standard form. Entry-level features include real wood inlays on the dash, steering wheel and door panels; a power rear liftgate; rain-sensing wipers; and even heated rear seats. All expected luxuries, such as leather trim, puddle lights under the side mirrors, power adjustable steering column, a Sync entertainment system, an 8-inch touch-screen and a 110-volt power outlet are standard.
The Premium Package delivers 12-way front power seats, rear footrests and rear-window sunshades, among other things. The Elite Package brings a voice-activated DVD navigation system with single DVD/CD/MP3 player, 10 gigabytes of music storage and SIRIUS Travel Link, plus Ford/Lincoln's latest radar-guided blind-spot and parking lot warning aids. And yes, the MKT can parallel park itself.
Besides the turbo engine and AWD, the EcoBoost MKTs offer dual exhaust, an upgraded battery and 255/45R-20 all-season Goodyear RS-A tires instead of the standard 235/55R-19s.
Under the Hood
With double overhead variable-timing camshafts and four valves per cylinder, the 3.7-liter V6 is a smooth, sophisticated powerplant that runs on regular gasoline. But its 268 horsepower and especially its 270 lb-ft of torque are no more than politely adequate for the MKT's curb weight — 4,680 pounds with FWD and 4,857 pounds in AWD trim. Hence, Lincoln's emphasis on the EcoBoost V6.
Combining direct fuel injection with dual turbochargers, the 3.5-liter V6 whirs out 355 horses and, more importantly, 350 lb-ft of torque from just 1500 rpm up to 5250 rpm on premium gasoline (a little less on regular). It's the generous torque that seemingly lofts the MKT — along with the Lincoln MKS sedan, Taurus SHO and Ford Flex, which share this V6 EcoBoost powertrain — in defiance of its nearly 5,000-pound weight. This innovative powertrain option also gives the MKT a class-leading 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway fuel economy.
The same paddle-shift 6-speed automatic transmission is used in all MKTs.
MKT buyers can choose between 7-passenger seating using a split-bench middle row and 6-passenger seating with an extended center console reaching between the center seats and terminating with a small, optional refrigerator. The console fridge holds seven 12-ounce cans, runs only when the MKT is in Run or Start modes and has enough oomph to freeze.
A pair of large glass roof panels — Vista Roof — is standard over the front and middle seats, but to get the front panel to tip and slide open will cost extra (or require the Elite Package).
Several interior color schemes are available. We enjoyed the black version most, for its contemporary look. A tan version is a bit lighter, and a white option reminds us of sleepy country club Sundays; both the latter schemes are broken up by the always black dash and door tops.
No matter what the color, the MKT seating is plush in front and almost equally so in the center row. The two front rows provide generous passenger room, with the third row best for younger, more agile bodies, but serves adults in a pinch.
On the Road
Most unexpected from the MKT is its precise steering and confident handling. Its smooth ride is firmly plush, yet without the head toss and general upper body workout so common in taller crossovers and SUVs. All told, we enjoyed driving the MKT on twisty roads better than Lincoln's flagship MKS sedan, which doesn't offer the same midcorner stability and accurate tracking of the MKT.
The MKT is also quiet. This is not by accident; Lincoln spent the dollars for a lighter, stiffer, magnesium rear liftgate, acoustic glass, extra seals and sound deadening. The result is minimal wind and road noise and excellent speech intelligibility at all speeds.
At least with EcoBoost, power is not an issue; the turbo V6 acts like a healthy V8. Either jumping ahead at a light or whooshing along on the freeway, the MKT makes easy speed. Good control of that speed is available from the paddle shifters on steep grades or winding roads. Otherwise, the automatic transmission does fine on its own.
An unexpectedly useful item is the Adaptive Cruise Control, which maintains one of three preset following distances. It takes nothing to get used to it, and you miss it right away in other cars.
While not major MKT selling points, the strong EcoBoost powertrain allows a meaningful 4,500-pound tow rating and provides excellent altitude compensation for those Rocky Mountain vacations. The turbo engine's torque doesn't begin to fall off until over 5,000 feet.
Right for You?
All this goodness comes at a price, of course. The base MKT starts at $44,995 with destination and delivery charges. Add AWD and the price climbs to $46,990; tack on the dual headrest DVD system ($1,995), power tilt-and-fold third-row seats ($595) and perhaps a few of the smaller options, such as winter-friendly rubber floor mats ($75), and the basic FWD MKT reaches 50 grand without panting.
And $49,995 is the starting point for the EcoBoost MKT. You'll also pay extra for some of the goodies such as radar cruise control and a brake-assist package at $1,295, along with $895 for the refrigerator and the other options listed above. That means a well-equipped MKT reaches into the mid-$50,000s pretty quickly.
We'd advise buyers to reach for the EcoBoost version for anything more than around-town shuttling. And while this most versatile of Lincolns beckons strongly, if the EcoBoost version is simply too much, consider the Ford Flex SEL, which offers the same mechanicals and much of the same functional luxury for about $12,000 less.
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technical engine books and hundreds of freelance articles.